Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World
This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in
the world by JSTOR.
Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries.
We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial
Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early-
JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please
THE WAR AND NON-RESISTANCE. 23
THE WAR AND NON-RESISTANCE.
A Rejoindeb to Professor Perry.
THE HONORABLE BERTRAND RUSSELL, P.R.S.
PROFESSOR PERRY'S article in the April number of
the International Journal or Ethics calls for a
reply both by its temperateness, and by the fact that it
expresses objections to my previous article which are likely
to be felt by most readers. In part, his objections would
have been removed if I had written more fully. On the
subject of non-resistance, I have since expanded what I
had to say and have, I think, incidentally met some of his
charges. r But in what follows I wish to reply point by point
to his criticisms.
Professor Perry is surprised that I should speak of my
own opinions as merely an expression of "feeling." It is
true that I formulated judgments and supported them by
what was meant to be as like reason as I could make it.
But all that can be 'proved in this way is that the opinion
one is combating is by no means certainly true, and
that the opinion one is advocating has as much in its
favor as that of one's opponents. If our views as to
what ought to be done were to be truly rational, we
ought to have a rational way of ascertaining what things
are such as ought to exist on their own account, and
by what means such things are to be brought into exist-
ence. On the first point, no argument is possible. There
can be nothing beyond an appeal to individual tastes. If,
for example, one man thinks vindictive punishment de-
sirable in itself, apart from any reformatory or deter-
rent effects, while another man thinks it undesirable in
itself, it is impossible to bring any arguments in support
of either side. In regard to means, the difficulty is just
1 Atlantic Monthly, August, 1915.
24 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ETHICS.
the opposite: so many arguments can be brought on both
sides of the question that no rational decision is possible.
Take again the question of punishment. Is punishment
reformatory? Obviously sometimes it is, and sometimes
it is not. Will it be reformatory on the present occasion?
The answer, however supported by a wealth of argu-
ment, will turn on whether we feel a vindictive impulse
or not. Those who feel such an impulse will persuade
themselves that the punishment will be wholesome; those
who do not will persuade themselves that it will only
The subjectivity of men's opinions on political questions
is much greater than is generally supposed. Whether a
certain course of action will have a certain effect cannot,
as a rule, be ascertained, and yet all argument for or against
depends upon the effect which is expected. Unavowed and
often unconscious desires lead men to feel convinced that a
certain effect will result, when they ought to be full of
doubt. Many men, before the war, had an unconscious
impulse toward war, which led them to advocate, in the
name of peace, various measures which seemed, to genuine
lovers of peace, ideally calculated to produce war. The
few who frankly avowed a desire for war, like Bernhardi,
maintained that war leads to moral regeneration. The
Morning Post maintains this view still, although it is easy
to see that war has provoked hatred, brutality, and vice.
It is not hypocrisy that promotes positive opinions of this
kind, it is merely failure to allow for the influence of pas-
sion on thought. In the case of private quarrels, we all
know how anger alters men's judgment. And on the other
hand pacifism before the war made many of its advocates
blind to facts which took them by surprise last August, and
led them sometimes to repudiate the convictions of a life-
time. It was the attempt to do justice to such sceptical
considerations which led me to speak of my own views as
an expression of feeling.
Professor Perry very kindly praises my disinterestedness.
But I am willing to admit that disinterestedness itself may
THE WAR AND NON-RESISTANCE. 25
become a passion. When a German is accused of having
murdered a baby, and it turns out that he murdered a boy
of twelve, I almost forget his crime in the desire to prevent
injustice. I am conscious that if I belonged to a neutral
nation I should reprobate the spirit of Germany whole-
heartedly; but I am restrained by disgust at the orgy of
self-righteousness that has swept over the British nation.
This applies especially to treaty-breaking. I recognize
at once that treaty-breaking is a crime, since a habit of
observing treaties would further the reign of law between
nations if it could be established. But all nations sin in
this respect. England and France ignored the Act of Alge-
ciras; England and Russia ignored their guarantee of the
independence and integrity of Persia; the Tsar broke his
coronation oath to respect the liberties of Finland. America
was only saved by the personal influence of the President
from a breach of treaty as regards the Panama Canal.
The nations of Europe have not the right to profess horror
when one of their number follows the usual practice — not
because the practice is good, but because there is hypocrisy
in their horror.
The chief crime of Germany in invading Belgium lies
less in the legal fact that a treaty was broken than in the
fact that terrible cruelty was inflicted on an unoffending
nation. 2 But the question which England had to consider
was, not whether Germany had committed a crime, but
whether we should do anything to mitigate the bad con-
sequences of that crime by going to war. If we had not
come in, the Belgians would in all likelihood not have
resisted the German arms. In return for a free passage
and for our neutrality, the Germans would have respected
Belgian independence, and Belgium would have been spared
almost all that it has suffered.
Professor Perry says: "It is important that no breach of
such conventions as are already in existence should be con-
2 If, for example, Belgium had first violated its own neutrality (as the Ger-
mans pretend), that would not make Belgium as guilty as Germany, because
the crime would be only against law, not against humanity.
26 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ETHICS.
doned" (p. 308). If so, the duty cannot be confined to
England, it must apply equally to the United States. Does
Professor Perry really hold that the United States ought
to have gone to war for Finland or Persia or Morocco?
Surely not. The evil of a great war is so stupendous that
in itself it outweighs almost any good result that it may
achieve. Let us try to induce our own nation to observe
treaties, but let us not embark upon a universal crusade
against other nations which fail to observe them.
Professor Perry expects (p. 309) that wars will be brought
to an end through respect for treaties and international law.
I do not myself think that this is likely to be a sufficiently
strong force. I think wars will end, if they do end, through
a growing realization that they are cruel and irrational, that
the supposed conflicts between the interests of nations are
illusory, and that co-operation is more likely to promote the
happiness of the average citizen than mutual slaughter.
The present war is likely to do a great deal to promote
this realization, since the losses are unprecedented, and the
gains to all parties are likely to be infinitesimal. A mood
of unreason swept Europe into the conflict ; but the penalty
for unreason has proved so great that men are likely to
respect reason for some time after the war ends.
I agree with Professor Perry that it is legitimate to make
war in order to end war. But there is no reason to think
that this war has any such purpose. As the Morning Post
said (leading article, October 20, 1914): "The absurd talk
about this being a war against militarism has now sub-
sided. . . . After all the British Empire is built up on
good fighting by its army and its navy; the spirit of war
is native to the British race." This is the honest truth.
All honor to the Morning Post for having the courage to
Professor Perry, in his argument against non-resistance,
ignores the limitations which I had suggested to the doc-
trine. A war of principle, I had admitted, is sometimes
justified. If some principle is at stake which we honestly
believe to be of great importance to the human race, and
THE WAR AND NON-RESISTANCE. 27
if there is reason to think that that principle will survive
by our victory but not otherwise, I hold that war may be
justified. But in the present war, all the alleged principles
seem to me in the nature of pretexts. As The Times has
repeatedly pointed out, this is a war for the Balance of
Power. It follows the tradition of the wars between Fran-
cis I and Charles V, between Louis XIV and Marlborough,
between revolutionary: France and legitimist Europe.
These wars, in retrospect, have none of that glamour and
importance that people endeavour to attach to the present
war. And the present war, in retrospect, will shrink as
they have shrunk.
The doctrine of non-resistance, as I hold it, is only
applicable to wars between civilized states. It rests upon
the belief that what is valuable in a European nation is
more likely to be destroyed by war— even successful war — •
than by anything that another nation is likely to do if
it is not resisted. A nation sufficiently numerous and
strong to resist successfully by force of arms will also be
able, if it chooses, to resist by the method of the strike,
by mere refusal to obey. No one seriously supposes that
the Germans would undertake to govern England, even if
we had no army or navy. The mere political difficulties
would be insuperable. And if ordinary peaceful citizens in
Germany could not be incited by fear of England, there
would be no such public opinion in Germany as would
sanction an invasion of England.
As regards Luxembourg, I have no reason to doubt that
its condition is deplorable. But surely it is impossible to
compare its sufferings with the devastation, murder, and
rapine that have been inflicted on Belgium. And if the
Allies succeed in reconquering Belgium, Belgium will suffer
in the process all the destruction that may possibly be in
store for Luxembourg.
I have answered elsewhere most of Professor Perry's
arguments on the subject of non-resistance. But I should
like to say that non-resistance, as I conceive it, involves
no lack of spirit or pride; on the contrary, it involves a
28 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ETHICS.
greater and firmer pride than any other policy, and as
great a readiness to die rather than yield as can be shown
on a battlefield. The case of the Jews, alleged by Professor
Perry, is ruled out by the very fact that they are, as he
says, "obsequious." But the chief difference lies in the
fact that the Jews are not a geographically compact nation,
being almost everywhere a minority. They could not, in
fact, secure their ends by armed resistance. Much the
same conditions— large population, public spirit, power of
organization — are required for preserving liberty by passive
non-obedience as are required for success in an armed
With what Professor Perry says in conclusion as to
the relative merits of the combatants, I am largely in
agreement. I think a victory for the Allies is much more
desirable than a victory for Germany. I agree that "Ger-
many and Austria are the principal offenders," but it is
not clear to me that on them "may justly be visited
whatever penalty be appropriate to the crime of war."
American sympathizers with the cause of the Allies, under
the impression that they are showing friendship, are very
willing to urge us to go on pouring out our best blood on
the plains of Belgium. But, though none of the combat-
ants remember it, there is at stake in this war something
which all equally are endangering — the civilization of Eu-
rope, as it has come down to us from the Renaissance. If
the war lasts much longer, almost all the men in Europe
between 20 and 40 will be dead or disabled; the ones who
return from the war will, especially if they are sensitive
and highly civilized, have lost energy and initiative, and
will drift through life helpless and listless. The next gen-
eration will be educated by those who are no longer
vigorous, and the continuity upon which civilization
depends will be broken. It is likely that pestilences will
carry off a large proportion of the civil population. It
is certain that poverty and popular discontent will inter-
fere with the work of art and science and literature, and
threaten to submerge the higher mental life that has made
THE WAR AND NON-RESISTANCE. 29
Europe important to mankind. Horrors will have grown
familiar, and will have ceased to horrify. A large propor-
tion of those who return from the war will become criminal
or drunken. All this must be obvious to any one who has
observed the men returning from the front, and who has
reflected upon the economic condition of Europe after the
war. For these reasons, the cost of punishment may well
be greater than any good that punishment can do. And is
it likely that punishment will weaken the hold of the mili-
tary party in Germany? Is it not clear that their hold on
the ordinary citizen depends upon fear, upon the feeling
that the constant invasions which Germany suffered down
to 1813 can only be prevented by a strong army? Will
not the Germans argue, if they are invaded, that their
army has not been strong enough, and that they have not
paid enough respect to their militarists? M. Cheradame,
a noted and patriotic French writer, points the moral
which the Germans would probably point, when he says :
"La si dure lecon de 1870 aurait du vous preserver pour
bien longtemps de 1'antimilitarisme, des theories pacifistes
et des illusions dangereuses sur la fraternity des nations.
Au point de vue de Finfluence des enseignements de l'his-
toire sur la vie publique, la superiorite des Allemands sur
nous n'est pas contestable. Pendant soixante-quatre ans,
ils ont prepare" la revanche d'J6na et leur victoire de Sedan
ne les a ni grises, ni endormis." 3
I fear that Professor Perry's advice, if it is followed by
the Allies, will only cause a new Jena to be the prelude to
a new Sedan, and so on in an endless chain of victory and
defeat to the end of time. Unless we are to believe in
vindictive punishment for its own sake, even the worst
wrong-doers ought not to be punished unless the punish-
ment is likely to have good effects. In this case, it is
likely, on the contrary, to- perpetuate and extend the very
evils for which it is sought to inflict punishment. In spite
of the Morning Post, I believe the least aggressive of Eu-
'LaCrise Frangaise (1912), p. 208.
30 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ETHICS.
ropean powers is England, which has only suffered defeat
once, in the American war of independence. The United
States, which has never been defeated, is even less aggres-
sive than England. It is not defeat and punishment that
makes nations peaceful, but security. We all know this as
regards our own nation, but we are too contemptuous of
other nations to judge them by ourselves. In this we are
wrong, and the hope of the world must lie in a peace in
which there are no victors and no vanquished.